Letters to the Editor

This letter is in response to Mr. Hans Ruck, in his letter to the editor published on November 16, 2005 entitled ?Politics & Bears Don?t Mix. I wish to correct several inaccurate statements made by Mr. Ruck in his letter. It is regrettable that six bears were shot in Tumbler Ridge this year. Mark Booden with the Bear Aware Program, is an educator. Bear Aware does not shoot or relocate bears. What Mr. Ruck doesn?t know, or if he knows, doesn?t say, is that bears have been shot in your community for years. Because of the education this year, the fact that six were shot has been publicized.

The Bear Aware Program is an education program that focuses on reducing bear-human conflict through education, innovation and cooperation. The focus of our education is to show humans the value of proper management of food attractants, such as garbage, fruit trees, barbeques, compost and the like. A program was initiated in Tumbler Ridge this year at the urging of a community group that wished to implement some proactive prevention. Bear Aware strives to achieve two goals, which are to reduce the threat that habituated and food conditioned bears may pose to human safety and secondly to reduce the number of bears that are needlessly destroyed each year due to negligent or careless management of attractants.

The Bear Aware Program, and in the case of Tumbler Ridge, Mr. Mark Booden does not engage in shooting bears. Nor do we engage in relocating bears. The decision to destroy any bear, rests solely with the proper authorities. In the case of Tumbler Ridge, where there is no Conservation Officer, the response usually comes from Chetwynd. In an urgent case, the RCMP will respond to calls and may make the decision to destroy a bear found within the community.

Mr. Ruck?s comment that our ?record of saving bears is so poor that we probably could win an award for killing every bear that comes to town? is false Mr. Ruck has it wrong. It is very unfortunate that some people do not obtain the facts before writing such erroneous letters to the newspaper. People who leave food for bears are responsible for the habituation and conditioning of such bears, which often leads to their destruction by the authorities. Our role is to prevent such human behaviour.

I would also wish to correct a further error made by Mr. Ruck. He states that most Conservation Officers in parks and other communities are using non-lethal techniques wherever humanly possible, like bear traps, colour marking and relocating. This statement is also false. Non-lethal management techniques are not used by the Conservation Officer Service. Most trapped bears are not relocated. They are trapped and later destroyed where it is safe to do so. Bears are not painted or marked and then released. Non-lethal management techniques are being tried in two B.C. Communities only and are independent projects, of which the B.C. Conservation Foundation plays a role.

Relocation of habituated and food conditioned bears have proven ineffective. Studies show that relocated bears have a high mortality rate. Dropping a bear in another bear?s range often proves deadly. Conditioned bears, even those relocated far distances, are known to return to their point of origin. Relocating bears is costly and time consuming. Better to spend the money in education and prevention than taxing the resources of the C.O. Service or the police. We hope our work will save lives. Wouldn?t Mr. Ruck want that?

Jacques Drisdelle Provincial Coordinator

Bear Aware Program